Everyone is familiar with children arguing about minor hurts and injuries arising out of unintentional or intentional actions. Unintentional actions resulting in injuries are more forgivable. Actions with an intent to hurt alert parents about a possible streak of vindictiveness and call for harsher admonitions.
The law also differentiates crimes committed based on the intentionality of the criminal. How do we differentiate whether an action is intentional or not? Most times, we judge the intentionality of the action by how likely the series of events might happen by chance. The lower the likelihood that the action and its outcome are by chance, the higher the probability that the action/s is/are indeed intentional.
We have heard the phrase “intentional discipleship” and “intentional disciple-making” frequently enough. What does it really mean? How does that translate into action? For me, intentionality speaks of priority – priorities of choice and of time. If we are intentional about something, we place it higher on a list of priorities. We choose to do that something first in our list of things to-do. If we are intentional about something, we also allocate more time to it, so that we do it well and do it completely.
Priorities translate into effort and time allocation. We plan our calendar around that which we hold in high priority. We also assign the most creative and productive parts of our day toward that priority.
Our discipleship has to be intentional. Without effort, we cannot by chance become the disciple that God wants us to be. This is not the same as salvation, which is through faith – a gift from God, not a result of our effort (Eph 2:8-9). Discipleship is about making us more and more like Jesus, transforming us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). If we do not spend enough quality time with Him, if we do not struggle to renew our minds and prevent our inevitable conformation to the ways of the world (Rom 12:2), how can we be transformed to be a disciple that God wants us to be?
Is it then only up to our efforts in our journey of discipleship? Thankfully no. God has given us His Holy Spirit to walk alongside us. And what the Holy Spirit does is that He will work in us to will and to work according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). In other words, the Holy Spirit will help us in renewing our values, our way of thinking and in our priorities. The result of this renewal is that our values are aligned to His values and our priorities and consequent decisions and actions are pleasing to Him.
How does He carry out this work in us? One of the ways is that He directs our hearts to the full understanding and expression of God’s love and the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thess 3:5 (NLT)). He shows us His values, His mind, His heart and His priorities so that we, His disciples will be motivated to follow more closely.
There is therefore this interaction between our efforts at discipleship and His work at transforming us. Those familiar with chemistry can liken our transformation (in a simplistic way) to a chemical reaction, in which reactants or substrates undergo a transformation into chemical product/s. Our efforts at discipleship can be likened to the reactants or substrates, the input substances that start a reaction. In many cases, the reaction proceeds so slowly that hardly any products form. The Holy Spirit is like a catalyst, or in a biochemical reaction, an enzyme, aligning the substrates so that the reaction can take place more easily and at greater speeds. The product of the reaction, our transformation into Christlikeness, is thus formed at greater speeds and with greater certainty. Without any input substances, our intentional efforts at discipleship, how can we get any products?
Let us therefore journey together, each in our little reactions, to be the products or disciples that God has designed us to be.
By Ong Kiat Hoe, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 15&16 October 2016)